Black Gold 360: Suite 17

That Flanger is the first of many influences listed at Black Gold 360's MySpace page is telling, given the similarities between the two groups (though more on production and conceptual than sonic grounds). Like Burnt Friedman's faux-jazz outfit, which blurs the line between actual group improvisation and the digitally-produced simulation of “live” performance, Black Gold 360 is similarly the one-man band project of Simon Sixsmith, Beluga co-owner and UK producer based in Utrecht, Holland, who fleshes out Suite 17's sound with the invaluable contributions of Coen Kaldeway (woodwinds), Bob Roos (drums), and Lucas Dols (double bass). There's a key difference, however: whereas Flanger's cool sound epitomizes tasteful restraint, Black Gold 360's is considerably more impassioned, even explosive.

Soulful voices sometimes bolster the intensity in tracks typically grounded by the steamy interplay of sax, clarinet, Rhodes , bass, and drums (e.g., “The Lighthouse at the Top of the World”), and raucous tracks like “Suite 17,” “Complex 507,” and “A Man Cut in Slices” drink from Miles Davis's well by adopting the loose, eruptive style heard on classics like Nefertiti and Bitches Brew. Roos in particular plays with an eruptive force reminiscent of Tony Williams while Dols functions as the anchoring complement to Roos, just as Ron Carter did for Williams so many years ago. “Taxes, Death and Trouble” brings a bit of ‘70s funk flavour to the group's second album by slipping clavinet in amongst the song's steamy acoustic blues-jazz roar. Suite 17's peak may be “Maybe Tomorrow the Good Lord Will Take Us Away,” a funereal, klezmer-tinged dirge for clarinet and large band that plunges deeply into epic soul territory when a choir appears. Best of all? Like all Beluga recordings, the album can be downloaded free of charge from the label's web site.

July 2008